We have finished all of our 2020 training camp previews for the Cleveland Browns, but because of the pandemic, full-padded practices will not begin until mid-August. Let’s take this opportunity to provide a recap of what has changed with the NFL offseason, some dates to be aware of, new regulations, etc.
COVID Lists & Opt Outs
- Players can opt out of the 2020 NFL season if they are concerned about the pandemic, whether it be for their own safety, or for their family’s safety. As of this post, two Browns offensive linemen have already done so. Over the Cap has a nice summary of the contract ramifications for players who make these decisions. Once they make the decision, it cannot be undone.
- Players can also be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. This means one of two things: the player tested positive for COVID-19, or are in quarantine because they were close to someone who is positive. Once these players are cleared, they can be removed from the list and put back on the roster.
Practice Squad Flexibility
- Special for this season, teams can now have 16 players on their practice squad. Considering rosters are already down to 80 players, this means that you could legitimately have 69/80 (86%) players from camp make the team in some capacity.
- Of the 16 players on the practice squad, the team can protect 4 of those players from being signed by other teams. For example, if the Browns want an insurance COVID-quarterback, they can stash that person on the practice squad, protect them, and still have someone who knows the system in the event of an in-season emergency.
- Additionally, if a member of the 53-man roster needs to go on the reserve/COVID-19 list during the season, the Browns can then call up a player from the practice squad, and then send them back down when that initial player is healthy, without having to put the player on waivers. That flexibility is very nice to have during the pandemic, for every team.
Every year, I always love seeing the changes in Berea for training camp. This year, fans won’t be allowed, but we can still use glimpses that the team posts online to see some new things. From the four pictures in the Twitter post below, you can see:
- In the main locker room area, the lockers are now “every other locker,” and there is a shield in between each locker.
- For overflow lockers, the old weight room now contains individual lockers, spaced apart from each other.
- The helmets will have stripes on them from the get-go, ending the “earn your stripes” moniker from previous seasons.
- There is your 2020 Browns Training Camp logo, sponsored by Drug Mart. I get a little depressed just thinking about it — not getting to plan my annual trip out there, doing my review, trying to score silly freebies like a slice of pizza, a schedule poster, a t-shirt, etc.
The full details of these changes are mentioned here. Gone are the buffet-style meals in the cafeteria; players will now have bagged/prepared meals. The indoor football field now includes the weight room. And so on and so forth.
Players Are Back - The Schedule
- August 1-2: Physicals & Equipment Distribution
- August 3-11: Acclimation Period
- August 12-16: Gradual Ramp-Up Period
- August 17: Full-padded Practices Begin
Teams can begin doing strength & conditioning work during the acclimation period, as well as some light work and walk-thrus on the football field.
Then, during the gradual ramp-up period, there will be no live contact, but more equipment will be worn and practices can last up to 3.5 hours (spaced out) per day. To me, this is like how OTAs or minicamp would be.
Then, the “normal” training camp begins August 17, when teams can have up to 14 padded practices. The first practice session will be 90 minutes during this period, and then as long as there isn’t an off day, each subsequent practice can be increased by 15 minutes in length.
Overall, it’ll be a softer training camp than we’re accustom to, but it also makes sense because the team is cramming an entire offseason into the month of August. As far as team meetings go (i.e. positional meetings, looking over film, etc), those will still be virtual for Cleveland until August 9th, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Stefanski says Browns are going beyond league protocols to stay safe. Among them: No in-person meetings until Aug. 9.— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) July 30, 2020
Quarterbacks and rookies have already been back for some strength and conditioning drills. Stefanski also added that the team will be split into smaller groups for their conditioning drills, and during walk-thrus, the team will not huddle together. Around mid-August, when the “training camp” period is about to start, that is when some of those distancing things for practice purposes will be loosened up.
Bringing Training Camp to the Fans
As previously reported, beginning on August 14, the Browns will be hosting a two-hour show from training camp. We know from the past that this show will be far different from the actual training camp experience, but it will still be very much appreciated. I believe that the media will still be allowed to attend practices, so we will do our best to piece together training camp summary reports for each day of practice based on what they report.